Equipment/Technology, Research, Sustainability, Trends

UK: Walkers Crisps cuts water use and carbon emissions in half over five years

Walkers Crisps has successfully reduced the water and carbon emissions used in the growing of its potatoes by 50% since 2011 after implementing a series of measuring techniques to identify where savings could be made. The PepsiCo-owned producer’s “50 in 5” project aimed to cut the amount of water and carbon at its UK potato farms based in water stressed areas. The company worked with the Agricultural Development Advisory Service (ADAS) to implement a series of new measures to help its 100 farmers achieve this goal. Among them was the use of the Cool Farm Tool, a carbon calculator used to collect data on farms to identify emissions hotspots. Gavin Janaway, who grows around 40,000 tonnes of potatoes for Walkers each year at Whitewater Farm in Hampshire, explained: “The Cool Farm tool allows us to look at our whole farming operation. That encompasses everything from every field pass we do with any piece of machinery, anything we do with the grading and washing process for the factory, all through to the storage of the crop.” This data is then used by ADAS to calculate hotspots of carbon emissions to identify where to make savings.

Sarah Wynn, principal consultant for sustainable food and farming at ADAS, said: “It’s really important for large food companies like PepsiCo to do programmes like ‘50 in 5’ because it’s not just about an individual farmer reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. “You need to get whole large groups of farmers to reduce their emissions in order to achieve the goals of preventing climate change.”

Walkers also used solar-powered technology iCrop to allow farmers to measure the moisture levels in soil and track this against weather reports so they know when it’s going to rain next. With this information, farmers can judge exactly when to water crops and how much water to use, reducing waste. Janaway added: “As farmers across the UK are challenged by more frequent extremities of weather and increasingly scarce resources, it is now more important than ever for farms to be more sustainable. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the supply chain to care for the environment and working in partnership is the way forward for sustainable farming. “This initiative has been crucial in helping us achieve that, reducing our water and carbon, and improving our yields.”

The company’s success has won praise from environment minister Andrea Leadsom, who said: “The ‘50 in 5’ project is an excellent example of British talent creating innovative, pioneering technology that is now transforming agriculture both in the UK and beyond. “I congratulate PepsiCo, its partners and farmers on their achievements and look forward to exploring opportunities to build on this success.”

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